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Album Review
One Life Stand

One Life Stand
by Hot Chip

Label
DFA/EMI
Rating

Review Date
27th April 2010
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

British electropop band Hot Chip are not strangers to writing an excellent dance-floor filling, and their track record includes a number of wry, intelligent takes on pop songs. Their newest and fourth album, One Life Stand, continues to showcase this ability to write catchy melodies, and it also adds in the mix the fact that thematically, it’s their most unified release yet. The songs are emotionally direct, and literal, plaintive takes on relationships. It’s also, as a result, remarkably earnest, the type of release which tries its best to sink underneath all of its cheese. It’s saved by some excellent pop songs – however, it never fully recovers from a mid-album lull and some overly sentimental lyrics.

When Hot Chip are good, they’re exceptional. The bouncy opening track ‘Thieves in the Night’ playfully subverts Alexis Taylor’s pained lyrics, while a jaunty piano riff drives another emotionally fragile song, ‘Hand Me Down Your Love’. The album’s highlight is the title track, in which malevolent bass-lines and synths explode into a sweet pop chorus. Hot Chip’s subversive pop song ability is evident in the first half – unconventional instrumentation, subtle melodies, and songs with plenty going to keep interesting on multiple listens.

However, soon after, the album slips into three emotionally naked songs, which guts the album’s intensity (‘Brothers’, ‘Slush’, ‘Alley Cats’). Any momentum that the opening of the album has built is lost with some insipid melodies, clichéd lyrics, far more conservative songs, and overlong and repetitive melodies (these songs in particular needed some trimming). The album finishes strongly – in particular the final track ‘Take It In’ is swimming with tension, and the band’s now customary major/minor shifts play out successfully once more. However, it’s enough to leave the album feel like it’s a little half-baked – the directness of the lyrics unable to be fully convincingly conveyed by the music itself.






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